, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 2921-2947

Functional traits as indicators of biodiversity response to land use changes across ecosystems and organisms

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Abstract

Rigorous and widely applicable indicators of biodiversity are needed to monitor the responses of ecosystems to global change and design effective conservation schemes. Among the potential indicators of biodiversity, those based on the functional traits of species and communities are interesting because they can be generalized to similar habitats and can be assessed by relatively rapid field assessment across eco-regions. Functional traits, however, have as yet been rarely considered in current common monitoring schemes. Moreover, standardized procedures of trait measurement and analyses have almost exclusively been developed for plants but different approaches have been used for different groups of organisms. Here we review approaches using functional traits as biodiversity indicators focussing not on plants as usual but particularly on animal groups that are commonly considered in different biodiversity monitoring schemes (benthic invertebrates, collembolans, above ground insects and birds). Further, we introduce a new framework based on functional traits indices and illustrate it using case studies where the traits of these organisms can help monitoring the response of biodiversity to different land use change drivers. We propose and test standard procedures to integrate different components of functional traits into biodiversity monitoring schemes across trophic levels and disciplines. We suggest that the development of indicators using functional traits could complement, rather than replace, the existent biodiversity monitoring. In this way, the comparison of the effect of land use changes on biodiversity is facilitated and is expected to positively influence conservation management practices.

Marie Vandewalle and Francesco de Bello contributed equally to this work.